Several speakers approached the Elk Grove City Council on Jan. 9 in opposition to a proposal to build a teaching hospital in the Stonelake neighborhood.
That plan was unveiled last month by California Northstate University, which hopes to open the $750 million, 250-bed facility, adjacent to its Elk Grove campus, in 2022. The university wants to hold its groundbreaking during the latter part of this year.
City officials have not reviewed and approved the hospital plans.
Elizabeth Brown, co-owner of Dreaming Dog Brewery, expressed frustration with the hospital plan, which she said would force her business to relocate.
The brewery is located in the Stonelake Landing shopping center, south of Elk Grove Boulevard, near Interstate 5. Dreaming Dog’s owners believe that the hospital site overlaps on their side of the shopping center.
Brown also said that she feels betrayed by Elk Grove city officials.
“I believed that the city encouraged and wanted small businesses,” she said. “But you have said, ‘That is OK until a bigger business with more money and more tax revenue comes in, and then we’ll just find a place for you.’
Brown stressed that she is not aware of a place where she would want to move her brewery.
“There isn’t a place for us,” she said. “So, I just want you to know that in the end, if Dreaming Dog Brewery goes down and goes out of business, I will look back at my time in Elk Grove with sadness instead of joy, and regret instead of fulfillment.”
Another speaker, a 17-year Stonelake resident, also said that she opposes the hospital at its proposed location.
She lamented the potential loss of businesses in that area.
“I am saddened that these hardworking owners are going to lose out on their businesses that they worked so hard on investing here in Elk Grove and making it prosper to be demolished for this hospital,” she said.
The same speaker noted that she would be “itching to move” in the event that the hospital is built.
Wearing a shirt that read, “No hospital in my front yard,” Stonelake resident Barbara Patterson advocated building the hospital at the site of the city’s long-abandoned, partially constructed outlet mall at Kammerer Road and Highway 99.
“If the mayor of this city really had our best interests at heart, he would be steering these types of businesses to the eyesore area of the abandoned building skeletons (of the unfinished mall),” she said. “This monstrosity would be less offensive there.”
Patterson also expressed disappointment that Stonelake residents were not informed sooner about efforts to have a hospital built.
“The owners of the hospital are saying that they hope to break ground this year,” she said. “It is obvious to everyone here that the process is much further along than we have been made aware of. It seems very underhanded and sneaky.”
Elk Grove resident Randy Bekker said there should have been better communication with residents regarding the hospital proposal.
“There was no interaction with the citizens, not one, other than the ones invited,” he said. “Yes, there have been rumors about a hospital possibly doing this or that, but this (proposal) is huger than rumors.”
Bekker, who does not support having a hospital built near the homes of Stonelake residents, told the council that opposition to the proposed facility will continue.
“This is going to be a fight and you better figure out if you want to be a part of it, and what side of history you want to be on,” he said.
Alvin Cheung, president and CEO of California Northstate University, told the council that the university is taking “concrete steps” to work with the business community, neighborhood leaders and local organizations.
Cheung added that an informational session would be held on Jan. 15, the first session of an “ongoing communication process.”
In a Jan. 11 interview with the Citizen, Cheung described the meeting as “an opportunity for several neighborhood leaders to sit down face-to-face with me and our team.”
“It will be followed by a series of large and small public meetings in the coming weeks,” he said. “We have an aggressive plan to be sure we include everyone’s input and fully engage the community over the next six months.”
Cheung emphasized the university’s desire to work with tenants of the nearby shopping center.
“We are listening to the tenants, we hear their concerns, and we are working with each of them on creating win-win options,” he said. “Paul Wagstaffe, the university’s general counsel, has made this his personal project and he is going door to door to work out viable solutions.”
Cheung noted that some of the center’s businesses will remain at their current locations while others will move from the site to “attractive locations nearby.”
The university’s CEO noted that early planning for the hospital began last summer.
“The project is part of our natural evolution as a university,” he said.
Cheung stressed the necessity of opening the hospital in Elk Grove.
“The hospital is foremost about saving lives by providing high-quality care and easy access to care because we know that the difference between life and death often is a matter of minutes,” he said. “But the hospital also is about creating good jobs and new revenue for local business, including everyone at the Stonelake Landing shopping center.”